Canine Distemper outbreak in Gauteng confirmed - here’s what you need to know


Jade Poole from I Write Words


Distemper is a serious and contagious viral illness that cannot be cured - find out about the outbreak, the disease and what to do about it

The Citizen has just released an article claiming that the Distemper outbreak in Gauteng has been confirmed.

What is canine distemper?

This horrible condition is a virus that has been known to wipe out hundreds of our precious pooches at a time. It can be fatal and has no cure.

The virus invades the nervous system and other parts of the body, it is actually very similar to the human measles virus. Vaccinations were introduced in the 1950s and dogs can now be protected against the disease through getting vaccinated.

Tell me more about the outbreak

The article in the Citizen explains how to the SPCA in Tshwane is a “currently battling a potential canine distemper outbreak at its Waltloo branch.”

In KZN last year, 73 dogs had to be out down because of a distemper outbreak.

The first cases of the disease were reported to be in Knysa in May 2018 and dozens of dogs had to be euthanised. The Knysna outbreak then spread to Durban and Cape Town and now it has reached Gauteng.

What can I do as a pet owner?

If you have not vaccinated your dog on a regular basis in the last year, then you need to vaccinate him or her immediately. We mean it, book the appointment with your vet right now to have vaccinations done.

Distemper can easily spread to dogs who have not been vaccinated through direct contact with the saliva of a dog that is infected when it sneezes or coughs. It is also possible for the virus to be transmitted through urine.

As a pet parent, you need to be on the lookout for any strange changes in your dog’s behaviour.

The symptoms of distemper are:

Initial symptoms:

●     Mucousy nose and eye discharge

●     Loss of appetite

●     Pneumonia

●     Coughing

●     Fever

As the virus spreads throughout the body, it can go on to result in:

●     Diarrhoea

●     Vomiting

●     Thickened pads of paws

Did you know that the virus was first called Hard Pad Disease?

During the later stages of the infection, your dog may suffer from the following (within one to three weeks after the first symptoms appear):

●     Seizures

●     Twitching

●     Weakness in limbs

●     Stiffness in muscles

●     Acting off balance

How is distemper diagnosed?

It is often difficult for a vet to confirm the diagnosis of the disease, but he or she may perform a blood test known as a PCR blood test. This will measure if there are any antibodies present in your dog’s blood which are tiny fighter cells the body will form to fight off infections.

How is distemper treated?

Sadly, there is no cure for the disease.

Prevention is the only cure through vaccinations. Of course, if you have pet insurance, then we cover the costs of vaccinations and even pay you BEFORE you see your vet of choice.

Dogs with distemper will be given supportive care to try and help their bodies stay strong in fighting off the virus. Fluids to control dehydration and medications to stop seizures are often used.

Will my dog be able to recover from distemper?

If your dog is healthy and is provided with the supportive care he or she needs when diagnosed during the early stages of the condition, then your beloved furry bestie will have a good chance of recovering. Puppies and older dogs may struggle to overcome the disease and if the virus affects the nervous system, then this may cause more severe issues and even death.

So, what now?

As we said, be on the lookout for any strange symptoms your dog might be showing. Check to see if your dog has been vaccinated - if you have lost your vet book for your dog then phone your vet to make sure your precious pooch is protected.

We hope your furry bestie stays safe during this outbreak and that the virus can be controlled in the near future.

Yours in paws,


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